April 10, 2013 § 23 Comments
I have been having an absolute love affair with raw fennel lately. Every night and/or every time I’m at the market my little conversation with myself goes, “what kind of vegetable should we have with dinner? Broccoli? Nah. Cabbage? Not today. Kale? Meh. Ooh, how about a salad with shaved fennel. Oh, yes that sounds perfect.” And it keeps happening. Over and over. So what if I just ate a whole bulb? More fennel please.
It could just be one of my recent cravings. Or perhaps it’s because it’s the closest we’re getting to spring here right now. Still. (Not talking about the weather. I’m not talking about the weather. I’ll just put on another sweater, and not mention the weather.) But, on the whole, I’d say the jag started with this salad.
Fennel salad with burrata? Sign me up, and then give me seconds! Anything that includes buratta tends to be my dream meal. But, the fennel, with its sleek coat of lemon and olive oil and the icy cool of mint leaves was no second fiddle to the burrata’s main act (or what I thought would be the main act, before I sat down to eat).
And, that, in sum, is why I can’t stop eating fennel. I mean, a) I get to use my mandoline, which is always an exciting process because you flirt with losing your fingertips but then get parchment thin delicate sheets of fennel, all in a noodle-like tangle, out of the deal. And then, b) the 15 minute waiting period where the fennel bathes in a lemony dressing ever so slightly softens its crunch and freshens its flavor with the brightness of the lemon – both in juice and zest form – bolstering the anise notes of the vegetable. I fall for lemon-in-both-juice-and-zest-form’s show every time.
This salad, with grapefruit and curds of soft goat cheese is my most recent use of lemony fennel. There is nothing new about combining fennel’s sweetness with the juicy bittersweet of grapefruit. I feel like I have seen it in many a restaurant in past years at this very time of year, the transition time where we start picking up spring while still trailing a few threads of winter along with us. (Once I even had it as a fennel grapefruit salad with pine nuts and chunks of salted brittle candy. That was pretty tasty.) But, look at the word “marinated” there. Marinated makes it different! And new! « Read the rest of this entry »
February 1, 2013 § 19 Comments
So, a couple of weeks ago I had this whole plan in my mind wherein I was not going to make or eat any sweets until Valentine’s Day. Not because of any January, ascetic, resolution-y type of reason. I steer clear of food resolutions in general, and cleanses peeve me. They rub me the wrong way, I guess because I feel like they’re a reflection of our national dysfunctional relationship with food. I know they’re not trying to, but to me they send the message, “you can shove whatever you want into your body without paying attention all year long as long as you spend 2 weeks in January consuming nothing but juiced vegetables and wheatgrass,” or whatever. Which you can’t. You should eat cleanly all the time, and it should and can be incredibly enjoyable, and then also leave room for some good clean fun here and there (like nachos, hehe).
Anyhow, pardon the brief tirade, that’s neither here nor there because the real reason that I was going to forego all sweets for any number of weeks was to create a giant buildup to a Valentine’s Day treat to end all Valentine’s Day treats. In spite of my usual relaxed attitude toward the holiday of love, this year, for whatever reason, it struck me as a fun idea to use it as an excuse to make something billowing, and chocolatey, and gooey, and basically hopelessly, ridiculously rich.
And, I suppose I still may, but a couple of things conspired against me in the last few days to send my plans into a tailspin. First, my dear husband told me that he was going to be out of town on Valentine’s and the surrounding days for a consulting project he’s working on. Insert sad face, but that hitch could be overcome by postponing our Valentine’s celebration until he returned. But the second problem is, I lost my taste for chocolate.
I know: What???!!! Right? It’s completely ridiculous. Who goes from being a devotee of chocolate in all its most intense forms, mousse, sorbet, midnight dark bars, dense flourless cakes, to being slightly put off by the very thought of it? Who???? Sadly, me.
January 22, 2013 § 22 Comments
Right at this moment, it is 20 below zero outside. The windchill is -43F, and the high today is a balmy -4.
In other words, it is January in Minnesota. And while this kind of weather does make you vaguely wonder how life can exist here, it is also pretty great – after the thaw we had two weeks ago – to feel like we’re getting a spot of normal weather.
In case you don’t live in such a frigid place, here are some things to know about this type of weather:
Yes, there is still a palpable difference between temperatures when you get lower than 32F. Sure, it all feels freezing, but not at all the same level of freezing. 5 degrees above feels downright vernal after a spell of -15. When it’s around 10 or 15 below, salt actually stops working to melt ice. It’s kind of funny. When it gets really, really cold you can toss a cupful of water up in the air, and it will freeze before it makes it back down to the earth.
The best way to respond is to go outside in spite of the cold, just be sure all of your skin is covered and that everything you’re wearing is thick and wooly. Then, make some type of remark to everyone you meet about how arctic explorers would be overjoyed to have such a pleasantly warm day.
On a related note, you must learn to recognize everyone by their hats and puffy coats because you can’t really see faces. You need boots that are in a whole different league, preferably made of moose skin. The long fur coats you inherited from your grandmother stop looking like a politically incorrect bit of fashion history and instead look like an extremely reasonable and adaptive way of dressing. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 28, 2012 § 18 Comments
Fair ladies, kind gentlemen! I bring you: more broccoli!
Yes. More broccoli. Consider it another delicious stepping stone on the cruciferal march toward that cauliflower with harissa cream that I mentioned, and I swear I am working on, and it will appear any day now.
As a reward for your patience (or a way of buying it, perhaps?) though, this gratin is none too shabby, at least that much I can promise.
But first and foremost, for those of you who had Thanksgiving last week, how did it go? Are you still stuffed? Ours was quite the gathering, the most rollicking Thanksgiving I’ve been to in years, perhaps ever.
We were not only my family but also Joel’s, and on top of that not one but precisely six Norwegian students, here in Minnesota studying at various universities and connected to my mother in various ways.
The turkey was gargantuan, the gravy flowing, the Brussels sprouts piled high, and the pies numerous and flaky. The conversation was sparkling. Also, loud. Norwegian Americans may be reticent, but Norwegian Norwegians generally aren’t. Nor is my family. Plus, my grandmother was in the midst of everything exhibiting her talent for handwriting interpretation (mine = hard to read) and discussing Project Runway. Always a kick. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 18, 2012 § 47 Comments
We went up into the woods over the weekend. It felt so good. Always does, really.
We went to the Boundary Waters, the forest in Northern Minnesota bordering Canada. A wilderness where the only real way to get around is by slipping a canoe into the water and paddling from lake to lake. There you can glide through still water, bounce through choppy, scramble over beaver dams, dodge moose…the only sounds around are the slap of the paddles, the drips of water, the occasional loon call, or easy conversation with the others in the boat.
Every wild area has its own unique silence and peace. I think that of the Boundary Waters may be one of the deepest anywhere. It affords the most beautiful solitude (and the most comfortable companionship with the others paddling with you) that you can imagine. Where else in the world can you canoe or kayak between hundreds of lakes with only hikes of several – ok, sometimes several hundred – canoe lengths in between? It’s remarkable.
We paddled a nice 12 mile loop on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon we decided to hike up one of the low ridges to take in the views of the leaves that are just starting to show hints of gold and scarlet. On the hike down, for the first time in several weeks, I began to think in earnest about food. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 5, 2012 § 24 Comments
Hello dear friends. How are you?! It feels like an age since I’ve been here. Maybe it has been an age. I’ve lost all track of time as we’ve been in a blur of activity and change.
I meant to come back with a roar, with all sorts of things to say and stories to tell. Instead, I think I’ll go for something more along the lines of a purr. Roaring takes too much energy for the moment. Shifts and adaptations, however positive, are tiring. So is moving and unpacking boxes. Sheesh.
But we are, in fact, wondrously unpacked. We still have a small stack of boxes to attend to, and the art needs to be hung. But, most of the important things (read: kitchen and dining room – and even the living room, actually) are set up and functioning. We had the most amazing help. I mean really, that’s part of why we wanted to be here. The kindness and sense of community are palpable. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 6, 2012 § 15 Comments
First off, foremost, and before anything else, thank you! Seriously, thank you. Jumping up and down clapping my hands thank you. I’m 8 and I just got the Playmobile Victorian dollhouse set I’ve been coveting all year, thank you. Your enthusiasm, and support, and encouragement for Joel’s and my thoughts and plans mean so very, very much to me, and you will definitely be hearing stories as we get going with our new adventures!
And now, because when I’m overwhelmed with gratitude transitions go completely out the window, without further ado let’s go ahead and talk about breakfast. Or snack. Or breakfast standing in as dinner. Or however you want to serve these popovers. (The first, followed by the second, followed by the third works quite well. I can say from experience.)
Though in the end they became the sauce rather than the apparent centerpiece, it was actually the blueberries that started the wheels turning and rolled me down the path that led eventually to popovers.
I saw them (the blueberries, that is), majestically portly and dusty midnight blue, piled high in their cardboard pints at our tiny neighborhood farmer’s market, and I simply couldn’t resist. The word that comes to mind is peak. Blueberries are at their peak, and they looked it.
The blueberry acquisition was followed, in short order, by a creamy white round of chevre, and I began to form a plan. It was only the vaguest of plans though. It went something like: blueberries and chevre…together. The question of how I most wished to eat them together remained unanswered for a couple of days. « Read the rest of this entry »